From dream to nightmare
I was born in slavery. On Aug 14, 1947, I was a free man, proud citizen of a free, independent, sovereign, democratic country which I could call my own. I was a 24-year-old subordinate judge, full of joie de vivre, idealism, hope and ambition. For me and for all those who belonged to my generation, Pakistan symbolised all our wishes and expectations. We all shared a seemingly unassailable certainty.
I witnessed Pakistan’s early, heady days, and also its bleakest days. I saw how a nascent democratic republic, filled with such flowering promise, inexorably slid into darkness. On Aug 14, 1947, we thought we had found freedom, but it has turned out to be another kind of slavery. The loss of independence, the loss of sovereignty, has turned the country into a neo-colonial fiefdom. Of all the decolonised, newly-independent countries, Pakistan is perhaps the only country which has lost its independence, has been recolonised and turned into an American colony. Today it is not just a “rentier state”, not just a client state. It is a slave state, ill-governed by a puppet government set up by Washington.
The independence of Pakistan is a myth. Every day American aircraft violate our airspace, and bomb our villages, killing innocent men, women and children with impunity. No questions asked. No protest. No remorse. Today Pakistan is dotted with American fortresses, which seriously compromises our internal sovereignty. American security personnel stationed on our soil move in and out of the country without any let or hindrance. Pakistan has become a launch pad for military operations against neighbouring Muslim countries. We have been drawn into somebody else’s war without understanding its true dimension or ultimate objectives. Nuclear Pakistan has been turned into an American lackey currently engaged in a proxy war against its own people.
Many nations have attempted to develop democratic institutions, only to lose them when they took their liberties and political institutions for granted, and failed to comprehend the internal and external threats facing them. Pakistan is a classic example. Pakistanis tremble at the thought that the individuals at the helm of affairs in Islamabad are the people ruling them. Amid the chilling anarchy, every one of them has been tried and found wanting.
Today Pakistan is very feverish and ill, a shadow of what it used to be. What is there to celebrate? The federation is united only by a rope of sand. In democratic countries society is held together by the warp and weft of institutions – parliament, judiciary, local government, civil service, a free press. In Pakistan these institutions are vestigial and embryonic. The fabric of society is a single ply. No wonder, the centrifugal forces are tearing the country apart.
Sixty-three years after independence, Pakistan is torn between its past and present and dangerously at war with itself. A general languor has seized the nation. “Democracy” in Pakistan is a mask behind which a pestilence flourishes unchallenged. It has a disjointed, dysfunctional, lopsided, hybrid, artificial, political system – a non-sovereign rubberstamp parliament, a weak, ineffective and corrupt prime minister, appointed by a powerful corrupt president.
Poverty has deepened. While life at the top gets cushier, millions of educated unemployed, the flower of our nation, and those at the bottom of the social ladder, are fleeing the country and desperately trying to escape to the false paradises of the Middle East and the West. The rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting more and more impoverished. The middle classes seem defeated. There was a time when they were the key to prosperity and national stability. Now they appear submissive in the face of a drastic drop in the quality of their life. All these years, the people organised their lives in terms of a better future for themselves and their children. But with the passage of time, the future has quite literally shrunk and the present has stretched out.
Pakistan is in a deep, deep hole. When will it follow the first rule of holes? When you are in a hole, stop digging. Unfortunately, the hole into which Pakistan has dug itself is really, really deep. The problem is that you feel you are in a hole and you want to get out, and you hear all those noises, and all that activity, but you feel very much alone, with no one out there really wanting to help you out. The country suffers from a malignant disease, but people think it is just a cold, so they continue taking small doses of medicine and wonder why it still hurts.
We live in a profoundly precarious country. The current course is unacceptable. We are finally getting united and beginning to channel this anxiety into action. If young people, in particular, take to the streets in defence of our core institutions – as young people have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country – things will change. The status quo will shift, the corrupt regime will crumble, and people will once again believe in the power of the powerless. The long nightmare will be over. It will be morning once again in Pakistan. This is the last chance, the last battle. If we do not stand out in the streets, the long polar night will descend on Pakistan.
This is one of those moments in history when all that is needed is for someone to push open the door. I have no doubt that the present corrupt political system would disappear in a violent upheaval since it carries within it the seed of its own destruction. At this moment, when the nation is standing on the escalator of corruption and anarchy, right-minded citizens cannot afford to stand frozen in disgust and dismay. We cannot merely look upon the political developments in sorrow and upon our politicians in anger.
Why is there no outpouring of revulsion and anger towards these corrupt rulers? Our people are good at being long-suffering and patient, but not very good at being angry. Now they are really getting very angry. Public disgust has risen to epic levels. Anger is wafting across the country. Indignation will soon lead to action. When hunger and anger come together, people, sooner or later, take to the streets and demonstrate Lenin’s maxim that in such situations voting with citizen’s feet is more effective than voting in elections. When the indignados begin occupying Jinnah Avenue, in front of parliament or on Constitution Avenue opposite the Supreme Court, the wheel of history will be set in motion. Things will begin to change.
The ossified political parties are out of sync with the spirit and essence of times and are fast becoming irrelevant. There is a vacuum awaiting a star who has both integrity and credibility. Destiny is beckoning Imran Khan, a whirlwind of a leader, harbinger of change, a man of unbounded vitality. More and more people are looking up to him to deliver shock therapy to the corrupt, encrusted, two-party duopoly running the show in Pakistan. Today, he alone has that passion burning within him that will unleash people power and set the nation alight. Hopefully, he will lance the poisoned carbuncle and clean the country of all the mess. Mark my words, he is destined to change the political landscape of Pakistan.
The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: email@example.com, www.roedadkhan.com